Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson
Editor 

Kimball Schools refocusing efforts in face of SINA identification

 

Daniel Thompson

Kimball Public School staff members will work this coming year to close the gap between state scores and district scores by refocusing efforts to ensure growth in students’ development.

Poor test scores in the lower levels of the Kimball Public School system have resulted in warnings from the Department of Education, stating that the local education system is not meeting the federal accountability standard.

The lack of meeting the federal standard has pushed Mary Lynch Elementary into being identified as a School in Need of Assistance (SINA), a designation that occurs when a school fails to meet the standards for a given area at the grade level two years in a row.

However, with the restructuring of the district that led to the absorption of students from West Elementary into Mary Lynch, the district has been given a chance to take time to fix the current issues, according to Superintendent of Kimball Public Schools Marshall Lewis.

“We’re kind of in a very unique situation where we’re on the first year of being classified SINA. However, because we restructured that system, that’s one of the solutions to once you get three or four years into SINA that you can restructure like that and start over philosophically. Well, because we did that last year, we’re kind of starting over, but the data’s still there saying we’re SINA identified,” Lewis said.

Though the terminology seems alarming at first glance, Lewis assures that the situation is not as severe as it would appear on paper.

“Right now, it’s not a bad deal. It’s a nice shot in the arm right now. If it was truly SINA, we would have to be jumping through different hoops that we feel might actually take away from getting the job done. We were SINA identified, there was a restructuring so we’re not officially there. We’re going to look at it internally as if we are so we can make changes. It’s been kind of our wake up call,” Lewis said.

According to Kimball Public Schools Elementary Principal Mike Mitchell, the restructuring has given the school district extra time in order to fix the current problems before the state steps in.

“If we don’t make the improvements, we start jumping through all the state hoops or federal hoops, and that’s what other schools I’ve talked to have said. They’ll be making decisions for our kids. Right now, we have two years to make the decisions for our kids and make those improvements so we’re in control of our own destiny,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, though he admits that the situation is less than desirable, sees it as an opportunity for growth and development rather than a circumstance for panic throughout the district.

“I always go back to football stuff. It’s one of those things where ,as long as you keep winning and doing the things you’re supposed to, you get to go to the playoffs. We’re in a situation where we get to make our own decisions, look at what’s best for our kids, and pick everybody else’s brains in the state and see what we can do to improve our school,” Mitchell said.

Though the scores and rankings are useful at the academic level to illuminate areas that need improvement, school officials do not feel that the scores are all encompassing or reflect the true overall growth and development that students receive in their time within the district.

“The scores are important. You can’t diminish that, but it is the whole child. It is the individual who’s coming out with respect, responsibility, the educational background, the ability to apply that, the involvement of the community, and understanding. We have so many things,” Lewis said.

Lewis believes that the overall growth of each student is not only dependent upon academics but also after school activities and extra-curricular participation, which serve as extensions of the learning that takes place in the classroom.

“We want to hit things from a lot of angles, because who knows what’s going to catch with any individual kid. I think we understand that. I think our teachers understand that. I even think our kids understand that these are good things for them as a whole. It doesn’t all come out in an academic report, but we do try to incorporate life building skills any time and anywhere we can,” Lewis said.

For now, the district officials plan to take the data from the State of Schools report and use it to focus on the areas that truly need to be targeted.

“To me, I think it’s a refocusing. A lot of what we’ve talked about is asking teachers to step back and look at what they’re doing on a daily basis and how does this play into what I’m doing. Most of what we do is very good for kids and very good for learning. We’re asking people to be conscious about their approach,” Lewis said.

Lewis thinks progress must be achieved at all costs, no matter what staff members must do in order to help each students understanding of the material.

“We’ve got kids out there that we want to educate and enhance their learning. We’re really kind of saying ‘no excuses’, don’t care what the background is or where the student is right now. They are where they are, and we’re going to address that and enhance their education and enhance their life,” Lewis said.

For Mitchell, the focus is not only on using the data given in the report but also seeking out different methods from colleagues and community members in order to move forward, refocus, and make sure that progress is made in a proper and successful fashion.

“I’ve encouraged them to go out and beg, borrow and steal from other teachers on staff and friends that are teachers or even parents that understand how their kids learn,” Mitchell said. “ There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. We just have to fix a few of the spokes in the whole thing.”

 

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